1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Henry II. of France

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HENRY II. (1519-1559), king of France, the second son of Francis I. and Claude, succeeded to the throne in 1547. When only seven years old he was sent by his father, with his brother the dauphin Francis, as a hostage to Spain in 1526, whence they returned after the conclusion of the peace of Cambrai in 1530. Henry was too young to have carried away any abiding impressions, yet throughout his life his character, dress and bearing were far more Spanish than French. In 1533 his father married him to Catherine de’ Medici, from which match, as he said, Francis hoped to gain great advantage, even though it might be somewhat of a misalliance. In 1536 Henry, hitherto duke of Orleans, became dauphin by the death of his elder brother Francis. From that time he was under the influence of two personages, who dominated him completely for the remainder of his life—Diane de Poitiers, his mistress, and Anne de Montmorency, his mentor. Moreover, his younger brother, Charles of Orleans, who was of a more sprightly temperament, was his father’s favourite; and the rivalry of Diane and the duchesse d’Êtampes helped to make still wider the breach between the king and the dauphin. Henry supported the constable Montmorency when he was disgraced in 1541; protested against the treaty of Crépy in 1544; and at the end of the reign held himself completely aloof. His accession in 1547 gave rise to a veritable revolution at the court. Diane, Montmorency and the Guises were all-powerful, and dismissed Cardinal de Tournon, de Longueval, the duchesse d’Êtampes and all the late king’s friends and officials. At that time Henry was twenty-eight years old. He was a robust man, and inherited his father’s love of violent exercise; but his character was weak and his intelligence mediocre, and he had none of the superficial and brilliant gifts of Francis I. He was cold, haughty, melancholy and dull. He was a bigoted Catholic, and showed to the Protestants even less mercy than his father. During his reign the royal authority became more severe and more absolute than ever. Resistance to the financial extortions of the government was cruelly chastised, and the “Chambre Ardente” was instituted against the Reformers. Abroad, the struggle was continued against Charles V. and Philip II., which ended in the much-discussed treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis. Some weeks afterwards high feast was held on the occasion of the double marriage of the king’s daughter Elizabeth with the king of Spain, and of his sister Margaret with the duke of Savoy. On the 30th of June 1559, when tilting with the count of Montgomery, Henry was wounded in the temple by a lance. In spite of the attentions of Ambroise Paré he died on the 10th of July. By his wife Catherine de’ Medici he had seven children living: Elizabeth, queen of Spain; Claude, duchess of Lorraine; Francis (II), Charles (IX.) and Henry (III.), all of whom came to the throne; Marguerite, who became queen of Navarre in 1572; and Francis, duke of Alençon and afterwards of Anjou, who died in 1584.

The bulk of the documents for the reign of Henry II. are unpublished, and are in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Of the published documents, see especially the correspondence of Catherine de’ Medici (ed. by de la Ferrière, Paris, 1880), of Diane de Poitiers (ed. by Guiffrey, Paris, 1866), of Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d’Albret (ed. by Rochambeau, Paris, 1877), of Odet de Selve, ambassador to England (ed. by Lefèvre-Pontalis, Paris, 1888) and of Dominique du Gabre, ambassador to Venice (ed. by Vitalis, Paris, 1903); Ribier, Lettres et mémoires d’estat (Paris, 1666); Relations des ambassadeurs venitiens, &c. Of the contemporary memoirs and histories, see Brantôme (ed. by Lalanne, Paris, 1864-1882), François de Lorraine (ed. by Michaud and Poujoulat, Paris, 1839), Montluc (ed. by de Ruble, Paris, 1864), F. de Boyvin du Villars (Michaud and Poujoulat), F. de Rabutin (Panthéon littéraire, Paris, 1836). See also de Thou, Historia sui temporis ... (London, 1733); Decrue, Anne de Montmorency (Paris, 1889); H. Forneron, Les Ducs de Guise et leur époque, vol. i. (Paris, 1877); and H. Lemonnier, “La France sous Henri II” (Paris, 1904), in the Histoire de France, by E. Lavisse, which contains a fuller bibliography of the subject.